Review by Garrett Elder



Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

Back when convoluted stories, shoulder buttons, and, most notably, 3D graphics, were unheard of in video games, challenge and fast gameplay was the selling point for the average gamer.

That is why Contra is so important to action video games.  Not only did it succeed in combining shooting and platform elements rather well, but it also had lots of play variety.  It features six intense side-scrolling levels, each with unique art styles and tough boss battles, and two psuedo-3D run-and-gun levels that were a sight to behold back in the day.

Of course, the real fun in Contra has always been its insane armaments that the heroes run across.  Found in hovering wing-shaped power ups and large gray boxes, your character can hone one of four weapons, outside of your default peashooter.  The Machine gun (for ease of fire, and levels featuring loads of weak enemies); the Spread gun (the most versatile, featuring decent strength and the ability to shoot 5 large rounds in a forward spray); the Flame gun (so-so strength and slow moving, but the funny movement of the fire can be used desirably in a few areas of the game); and finally, the Laser gun (the strongest but requiring the most precision; great for slow moving bosses and stationary enemies).

There are also three power-ups: first, Rapid, which can be used in conjunction with any of the other weapons for faster moving rounds.  There is also a bomb item that clears every enemy and destroys power up wings that might normally be hard to nab.  Finally, there is the Barrier, which makes you invincible for a short time.

Whew!  Needless to say, the level of depth was quite high for the time.  But, when you play the 2-player mode, you discover even more unique strategies for blasting through the game's 8 stages.

Perhaps what makes the game so great is its unrelenting challenge.  Sure with some practice it is possible to play through the game without being touched (you die from only one hit), but only true gamers will ever rise to this challenge.

Each level features unique structures, enemies and cool effects.  One of my fondest Contra memories has always been the exploding bridges on the very first level.  Not only did it look awesome at the time, but if you fell into the water below you got to keep going, only now you couldn't jump.  The feeling of freedom and mayhem was untouchable.  The further you got in the game, the higher your level of skill needed to be to continue.  The first two stages weren't especially hard, but by stage three, with its multitude of platforms and scuba-bombers, most gamers were hardpressed to reach the incredible alien waiting at the top of the Waterfall.

Stages 6 and 7 were definitely the hardest.  They required you to avoid flames and spikes respectively, and the people at Konami packed a lot of tricky areas to best in both of these frustrating levels.

Finally, in stage 8, The Alien Lair, players got to eradicate the seemingly pointless alien threat.  Really there was no logic at all in any of the eight stages, but back then it was all about presentation and sheer unbelievablity.  After you destroy bosses you usually jump right inside them or a nearby structure, which at the time was one of the most gratifying feelings in gaming.

Really the only thing hurting this game is the limitations of the NES itself.  Its lack of color depth made seeing bullets tough (especially on the predominately white Stage 5).  The game also had the bad habit of having players fall right into chasms when they regenerated after losing a life, resulting in an additional, unfair death.  The two-player mode only made this problem worse, with players falling behind and getting nailed helplessly.  Still, skilled players will easily overcome these minor gripes. 

Contra still stands as an engaging and challenging experience, with loads of intense moments, and a great two-player game.  Definitely worth picking up as it not only plays excellently, but the level of balance and play control is still tough to beat. Go find a copy of Contra today!


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Last updated: Monday, September 26, 2005 06:23 PM